Rivalry! Wisconsin-Marquette Preview: B5Q Grills Anonymous Eagle

Al Messerschmidt

I don't know which eagle it was, but it was delicious!

While we here at Bucky's 5th Quarter are shuffling to bring you rapid fire football coaching search updates, the I-94 rivalry has snuck up on us yet again. The big, bad public school in Wisconsin travels to the parochial hoops powerhouse Marquette down the road in Milwaukee at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The two teams have two common opponents so far, in Southeastern Louisiana and Florida. Both Wisconsin (6-3) and Marquette (5-2) split those games, with the Badgers looking more impressive in both.

Marquette blog Anonymous Eagle, proud owners of one of the best logos on the SB Nation network, has been treating its readers to something called "Badger Hate Week." Something about hating us because we're beautiful, I dunno ... but they seem to enjoy it.

For most of Thursday, AE manager Rubie Q and I sent a plethora of emails back-and-forth seeing who could rile up the other more. The result was an expansive dialogue on the contentious relationship between intrastate fanbases, as well as a look at two talented teams that haven't quite figured out who they are yet. It's worth a read.

B5Q: Hopefully Wisconsin fans remember that there is an important basketball game this Saturday, seeing as Bret Bielema pulled the rug out from under football fans this week. While we're on the subject, though, what's a typical Saturday like in September/October for Marquette fans -- constantly waiting by the computer for some Badger schadenfreude or just lots of rocking back and forth while sobbing?

AE: Rocking back and forth and sobbing? HA. We save that for our annual January swoon, when we blow a 20-point lead with like five minutes to go against a Top 25 opponent, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, as a general rule, we hate college football, because it has ruined everything good and pure and beautiful about college sports. It's because of you FOOTBAWWW-loving jerks that I have to watch Marquette play Tulane and SMU and Houston and freaking Central Florida next year instead of Syracuse and Pitt and West Virginia and ... heh, Rutgers.

Good call on that one, by the way: y'all just walked in to the pet store and plunked down $5000 for the mangy, three-legged runt of the litter that the pet store owner hasn't fed in two weeks. Is there anybody in B1G-land who's excited about that decision?

B5Q: Of course not! We're football fans, not the ones actually absorbing hits to the head. But if reaching on eastern schools solidifies the Big Ten down the road in a 16-team super-conference world while Marquette runs laps with Detroit-Mercy, then, um ... yay?

AE: I hate to be the one to give away the ending re: conference realignment, but SPOILER ALERT: I have seen how this ends for the Big Integer, and it involves 8,000 people in the stands for Rutgers and Illinois while Jim Delany ends up in a sanitarium mumbling "market share, market share, market share." Oh, and in case you haven't thought about it this week, here's your friendly reminder that in the B14, Bucky only gets to play Michigan and Nebraska and Michigan State and Iowa like once every eight years. Good job, good effort!

B5Q: *Sigh* ... What's going on with Marquette basketball this year? I know you want to one-up the Badgers all the time, but I guess I'll have to explain this slower: If UW loses by 18 to Florida, losing by 33 to the Gators does NOT make the Golden Eagles "almost twice as good." How does Buzz let a loss like that happen?

AE: I don't seem to remember Marquette playing Florida this year. (Writer's note: Here's your reminder, Rubie) You're probably thinking of the Sweet 16 game last season. I wouldn't want any part of those guys right now; they lost one dude to the NBA, brought everybody else back, and got about 20 times better. I mean, hell, if we had to play the same Florida team that cooked us in the Tournament, only without Jae Crowder, and Darius Johnson-Odom, we'd probably lose by 30 or something ...

Speaking of horrifying losses: how in the world did Bo Ryan get out Bucky-balled at home by Tony Bennett? That was some "once I was but the learner, now I am the master"-level stuff going on there, huh?

B5Q: Jedi sorcery for sure. But I'll be the bigger man here and own up to a preconference loss. The Badgers got out-rebounded HARD and frankly, out-toughed. It isn't the first time Tony Bennett and Virginia sniped someone on the road (ever heard of North Carolina?) and it won't be the last. No way around it, Wisconsin is definitely struggling in the backcourt, too.

AE: I presume by "North Carolina" you mean "UNC-Charlotte." And yes, I've heard of them. I'm sure they're in our conference next year.

B5Q: The real question is, can Marquette make the Badgers pay for all that inexperience at point guard? It seems the Warriors' guards have failed to progress in their own right. Junior Cadougan and transfer Trent Lockett are reviving the art of masonry from 3-point land.

AE: Cadougan's been spinning his tires, and Lockett, at this point, looks like he might've been the best player on a really, really bad Arizona State team (the old "least stinky turd in the bowl" syndrome). But don't pull a Tom Oates on me and tell me you've forgotten about Madison native VANDER BLUE, Phil. Van was the only Marquette player who looked like he belonged on the floor at Florida, and he's added a surprisingly-effective (if ugly) jumper to his offensive game. And, sure, he's still good for a couple of bullrushes into the lane that end in charging calls, but don't sleep on Vander. Not when UW is in town.

B5Q: Let me add that I certainly did not forget Vander Blue -- I was saving him for his own question:

I shouldn't admit this, but being a Madison guy, I always pulled for Blue even through his freshman year. These days, I'm just sad about the wasted talent. Is that fair? It is too bad Gasser is hurt, because this would be the year where these two eternally-linked recruits would really get to go head-to-head as top dogs on their respective teams. It looks like Blue might have improved his outside shot a bit, but I heard he still couldn't go left. Is Blue building any sort of legacy at Marquette? Are fans over the whole "we stole you from Madison, so we love you irrationally" thing?

AE: Here's the situation, as best as I can tell, when it comes to Vander Blue: there is a certain segment of the fan base that has decided, no matter what he does from here on out, that he's a bust. And that's because he wasn't the second coming of Dwyane Wade, and wasn't scoring 20 points per game from Day One. There's another segment of the fan base -- and I probably fit into this category -- that defends Van even when we shouldn't, pointing out what a good defender he is, how well he rebounds for a guy his size, how well he shoots free throws, how good he can be in transition (at times), and so on. Then there's the middle-ground folks, who note that Blue probably got a little bit overrated in high school (since the quality of competition in Wisconsin high schools ain't the greatest) but has turned into a pretty good college player, though he's going to be hard-pressed to be included in the same breath as guys like Dom James, or Jerel McNeal, or Wes Matthews, or Travis Diener, or Steve Novak.

At the end of the day, though, he still turned his back on Bo and came to the Good Land. If that doesn't earn you a place in a Marquette fan's heart, I don't know what does.

While we're on the topic: I know we're not Michigan, or Michigan State, or Ohio State, or Minnesota, but come on: even if you don't hate us, you dislike us a little bit, right? I'm genuinely hurt there isn't a Marquette Hate Week on Bucky's 5th Quarter.

B5Q: I'm baffled that you could even type out that question, knowing you do not field a football team. Next question.

/backpedals

FWIW, I think I broke down the pecking order of Wisconsin's basketball rivals at one point recently (found it here, not recent). Michigan State is definitely No. 1 and OSU is growing, but you're up there near the top still. It's a football state, man, I don't make the rules.

AE: Football is the worst.

B5Q: So now that we've acknowledged that Marquette is the little brother in this dichotomy, do you know exactly what the identity of Golden Eagle basketball is this season? Buzz lost two NBA-level players off last year's team, so it seem there may be less talent on the roster. What do you think is the missing piece? Or did Davante Gardner eat the missing pieces?

After a month, I have no idea what to make of Marquette. I know Davante Gardner is going to get his buckets -- and easy on the fat jokes, broseph, my man Ox is looking svelte (OK, svelte-ish) this year -- but other than that, your guess is as good as mine. Vander's the only guard capable of scoring consistently so far; Jamil Wilson, despite his prodigious talents, disappears for long stretches and ends up with frustrating 6 points-4 rebounds-1 block lines too often; Cadougan and Lockett aren't playing like seniors (plus Lockett got his head busted in the second game and has been playing with three broken bones in his face since Maui); and so on, and et cetera. It's been a weird transition: we went from knowing that Jae and DJO would be good for a combined 30 and 15 to not knowing where the scoring is going to come from on any given night.

B5Q: Ouch on that Lockett news. I believe UW recruited him to some degree out of Minnesota back in the day.

AE: Speaking of UW's trouble in the backcourt (weren't we?): I've had trouble getting my dander worked up over the Wisconsin game this year, largely because, with Josh Gasser sidelined, there's a severe lack of irritating Badgers on the squad. (Nobody's absorbed your head coach's habit of bitching after every single call quite like Josh has.) Do you miss Gasser as much as I do?

B5Q: Trust me, every Badger fan misses Gasser much more than you do. His defense was rock solid and he brought leadership, which is a gaping hole right now. After seeing how he improved his 3-point shooting last season (to 45%) and hearing how he took to the idea of running the point, it's been a major downer.

But c'mon, how long have you hated the Badgers for? Have you forgotten that there are always more Wisconsin players waiting in line to irritate opponents? If you like bullrushes into the lane, can I re-introduce you to kamikaze jumping bean Ben Brust? This 6'1" guard will knock his own guys out of the way to get a rebound, let alone an opponent, and then fires off 26-foot jumpers like he's chewing gum. I assume you hate Mike Bruesewitz already. Freshman Zak Showalter from your own backyard (Germantown) is probably the heir apparent to irritation because he's all hustle. It's true, though, none of these guys take their mouth guard out as much as Gasser did.

AE: See, I have a hard time disliking Brust, because it was his turnstyle defense and conscience-less chucking (I think he was like 3-12 from the field, or maybe it was worse than that) that let Marquette swipe a victory in Madison last year. I will always remember that performance fondly. This Showalter kid sounds intriguing, though. His name is really 'Zak'? When does he hear about the results from his audition for One Direction?

Is Brust's emergence the biggest surprise for the Badgers this year? I feel like everything else is a given: Berggren's a nightmare, and Bruesewitz is a pest, and Evans is steady, and Dekker can ball, and Marshall's in over his head, and Kaminsky looks like he woke up yesterday and was suddenly 6'10" and has no idea what to do in his new body. Right?

B5Q: Brust's rebounding numbers (7.8 per game, 2nd in B1G) are very surprising, but I suppose his motor and scoring ability are not. What continues to be shocking is just how bad Ryan Evans has looked shooting the ball. For the fantasy hoops geeks out there, Evans is putting up a .404/.077/.371 so far. That's right, 37% from the free throw line from a guy who was so steady toward the end of last season. It's getting to be really awkward.

You pretty much nailed the other guys. Based on chatter from last year regarding Marshall and Kaminsky being talked up this offseason, those two guys losing their starting jobs were setbacks that forced fans to readjust their expectations. I didn't expect much out of Traevon Jackson, but that Showalter kid has forced his way into the rotation, so that's interesting.

Tell me, what do the names Brett Roseboro, D.J. Newbill, Youssoupha Mbao, Patrick Hazel, and T.J. Taylor mean to you?

AE: Ooh, word association. I like word association.

Brett Roseboro: couldn't play. Still can't.

D.J. Newbill: got screwed, in my opinion.

Yous Mbao: was hilarious at the top of the 1-3-1 zone.

Pat Hazel: looooooong story.

T.J. Taylor: homesick. Also bizarre cat to follow on Twitter.

B5Q: You just spent more time thinking about all those guys than Buzz Williams ever did.

AE: Can I do one now? Bret Bielema.

I have already have too much to say about Bret Bielema, but I think everyone can some him up with one word: "Bro."

Which Southern job finally peels Buzz away from Marquette, by the way?

AE: Texas, for sure. I don't see how Rick Barnes survives after this season. We've made peace with it already; when your coach is flirting with a school like SMU, the writing is kind of on the wall.

Since Bo is never going to leave, is it going to be awkward to have to stop a game in the middle of the second half in 2045, when Bo dies while arguing a call with an official?

B5Q: Boy, I can't see any better way for it to go down at age 98. I can do without the red face and vulgarity, but I really would miss how riled up every rival fanbase gets by Bo.

AE: You can do without the red face and the vulgarity? That's like saying you love beer but you can do without the alcohol. With all sincerity, I hope Bo never leaves. I hope he never dies, which I think is a possibility given he's a vampire. My life already feels less full without Coach Pig Sooie. I don't know what I'd do without Bo.

B5Q: I know exactly what I would do without Buzz: direct 100% of my pity toward the House Creaned players at Indiana instead saving 25-30% of my pity for Buzzcuts at Marquette, like I do now.

Before I let you go, the Gold have the home turf this year. What's your prediction?

AE: I'm awful at predictions. And not knowing which Marquette team will show up makes this all the more difficult. So: I predict y'all will drag us into a 55-possession slobberknocker, and I'll drink a lot and say "God, this is ugly" at least four times.

B5Q: Your prediction was oozing with trepidation, so I will seize the moment and predict a glorious Badger road victory in Milwaukee thanks to big plays from Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker down the stretch.

*****

Thanks again to Rubie Q for joining us for today's extra special Q&A session. If continuing on as a football fan without Bielema has you in the dumps and you feel like being a traitor too, there's always more Marquette basketball talk over at Anonymous Eagle. You can also find Rubie on Twitter @Rubie_Q.

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For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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